From the time he was a young boy, Mark Hawthorne understood the power of words. His father was a reporter for the Associated Press and his mother was a school teacher. So when Hawthorne landed his dream job and became a reporter for The New York Times, everything seemed to fall into place. Except that it all fell apart.
These days, Hawthorne uses the power of words in a different way. Mostly, it's to say, "fuck you" or "I hate you." For the past 25 years, Hawthorne has lived on the streets of Berkeley, where he's developed a following and is known by the moniker "Hate Man," or simply "Hate," as he prefers. But Hate isn't hateful, per se. Rather, he believes that people are most caring when they're upfront about their disdain for each other. Only then, he says, can people trust one another.
For his belief in so-called "oppositionality," Hate has amassed a small but devoted group of adherents who he refers to as "oppies." While they also seem to linger around him to get things from him — chiefly, his cigarettes — it's obvious that he also holds a kind of magnetic power. Not quite a guru, he's nonetheless something of a celebrity at People's Park. And he clearly likes it that way.
Approaching his so-called "Hate Camp" in the southeastern corner of People's Park on a recent afternoon, six people lingered beneath a cluster of trees, trying to avoid the cold rain that was beginning to fall. Several sleeping bags were arranged next to each other, with a few crumpled beer cans nearby. Most were men who appeared to be in their twenties and thirties, and smelled of alcohol. One woman sat on a log reading a book. A couple dogs were wandering around. One man was talking on a cell phone.
"Excuse me, but I'm looking for Hate," a reporter said to one man.
"Oh, Hate? He's sleeping right now," he said, pointing to a lump underneath a blue tarp. "Hey, Hate!" the man yelled. "Hate!"
The tarp twitched, then stopped.
"Hate! Wake up, man! Someone's here to see you!"
A minute later, the tarp moved some more. Then arms came out, and a bleary-eyed older man with a scraggly white beard emerged. He sat up for a moment, then grabbed what looked like an old couch cushion and put it beneath his knees to prop them up. He put a white sneaker on one foot, then a black sneaker on the other. Thin and wiry, he wore black baggy pants and what looked like multiple layers of black jackets and sweatshirts, affixed with safety pins and binder clips. Atop his head was a bucket hat decorated with a woman's leopard-print thong underwear and a pin for Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington. Another man approached him and helped him. Almost as soon as he stood up, Hate and the man were engaged in a "push" for a cigarette. Lining up shoulder to shoulder, they pushed their bodies against one another. It lasted for just a moment, then ended.
"Hi, Hate," the reporter said. "Um, fuck you."
"Hi, fuck you, too. I hate you," he responded, without hesitation or an ounce of vitriol.
Before agreeing to talk, Hate said there had to be a "push." He put out his fingerless-gloved fist, knuckles toward the uninitiated reporter, who extended knuckles to his, and pushed gently. Hate pushed back. "Okay, okay," he said.
Despite his name and appearance, Hate isn't what you might expect from a homeless person — especially one that greets others with "fuck you" and eats out of garbage cans. He is kind, and his gentle eyes belie the hardened life of decades spent on the streets. He is also thoughtful and clearly educated — not to mention quite a talker.
Some of his followers say they help keep the peace in People's Park. Hate says he doesn't like to take handouts from anyone, doesn't drink, and no longer does drugs. His only vices appear to be Virginia Slims cigarettes, the smoke of which engulfs him in a perpetual halo, and coffee, which he carries in a glass jar and loads up with sugar.
How he went from reporting for The New York Times to leading homeless people in Berkeley as a pseudo prophet involves a long, strange trip and a string of failed relationships. It may sound like a fall from grace, but Hate says he's exactly where he's always wanted to be.
He has crafted a persona he says is modeled after Jesus, except that he says "fuck you" instead of "I love you" and dispenses cigarettes instead of miracles.
From the beginning, Hate appeared to have a destiny with language. He was born Mark Hawthorne in Washington, DC, in 1936. Until he was eleven, he and his family lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, then moved to New York for year before settling in Stamford, Connecticut, for Hate's junior high and high school years. A distant relative of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, his father was a reporter covering the Justice Department for the Associated Press and once went on an expedition to the South Pole. His mother was an elementary school teacher. "Both my parents were very verbal and revered print," Hate said. "We didn't have a television set until I was in high school, so I was very print-oriented."
With his parents as role models, Hate aspired to become either a reporter or a teacher. His first brush with journalism came in the seventh grade, when he was chosen to be "troop scribe" for his Boy Scouts troop and got to submit a write-up in the local weekly paper about what they had learned. "I was so thrilled to get something in the newspaper," he recalled. "That was a rush."
Religion also made a strong impression on young Hate. His parents weren't particularly religious — he describes them as "dishwater Protestants" — and he says they were also "somewhat alcoholics." While he says his relationship with his mother had a lot of "tension," his relationship with Jesus was positive. "I thought Jesus was a great guy," he said. "Because Jesus talked about caring, and I really liked that, I still like that, and died trying to care about people, but it was in a positive way."
According to Hate's younger sister Prudence Hawthorne, who lives in Montana and is something of an archivist of Hate's life, her brother seemed particularly sensitive of other people's phoniness. "From the beginning, he was a bullshit detector," she wrote by e-mail.
At the University of Connecticut, Hate chose English as his major. Reflecting back on his early love of words, Hate said, "I think I had a feeling. I didn't know it at the time, but I think my instinct was what's wrong in the world had something to do with language. ... So I wanted to master the language. I wanted to get English under my belt."
He spent the next few years doing just that: He wrote for and edited his school newspaper and started a humor magazine called Corkscrew. During the summer between his junior and senior year, he began working for The Providence Journal.
Upon graduation, however, Hate joined the Air Force for a three-year stint. For the first year he worked as an air traffic controller for fighter planes in Morocco. But upon learning of his skill with words, officials reassigned him to be an editor of the military newspaper Stars and Stripes and sent him to Colorado Springs.
It was there that he met and married his wife, Lee Winandi, a school teacher from Ohio. After being discharged from the military, Hate decided his next move would be to work for The New York Times. To Hate, working at the Times would be the ultimate proof to himself that he had language "under control."
Hate and Lee moved into a new twenty-story apartment building in Greenwich Village. One day he walked into the Times offices with a story in his pocket about graffiti in his building that workers had written on the walls before it was painted over. A recruiter told him the Times didn't hire people off the street, but that the paper had an opening for a temporary copy boy. Though it wasn't what he wanted, Hate nonetheless took it as a way to get his foot in the door. The year was 1961. "I figured I'm gonna be there for a year," he reasoned. "Some copy boys had been there ten years. If I don't make it, I'll go somewhere else."
But Hate was determined to work his way up. And it wasn't long before he did. "I worked my ass off that year," he said. A month into his new job, he got his story about graffiti published on the front page of the real estate section. For a new copy boy, it was a coup.
Always a hustler, Hate decided he needed to figure out how the system at the Times worked in order to advance, so he interviewed copy boys and the managing editor for a story for the trade publication Editor & Publisher. Soon, editors were taking note.
So when Hate finally got offered a coveted staff position, it surprised everyone that he turned it down. The Peace Corps had just started, and Hate decided that he needed to do something to match the adventurousness of his father's expedition to the South Pole. "I wanted to do something unorthodox, dramatic," he said. "That was part of the appeal."
Hate and Lee headed to Thailand for two years to teach English. During their stay, Hate and Lee had a daughter. Even more groundbreaking was the exposure Hate got to an entirely different way of life — one that was completely at odds with what he had imagined for himself thus far. Hate had been on the fast track, but in Thailand, everyone appeared to be on the relaxed track. "They were just sitting around drinking iced tea and they weren't busting their butt," he recalled. For Hate, the experience was eye-opening.
Also in Thailand, Hate discovered that teaching English was not his calling. So he continued writing — for the English-language paper in Bangkok and for the Times, and even started a paper for volunteers. After their two years were up, he and Lee returned to the states.
Back in New York, Hate's life appeared to be progressing well. He went back to work at the Times and was promoted to news clerk, which afforded him a living wage to support his family, and eventually made his way to the Metro desk. But the pressure to not "fuck up," as he put it, was intense. Hate also wasn't comfortable with the facts-based world of reporting. "That's why it was such a strain to be there," he said. "I'm not that strict about things. I tend to believe things if I want to believe them, whether science says it's really true or not, I don't care."
At the same time, the drug wave of the Sixties was lapping at the shore of popular culture. Thus far, Hate hadn't even been a drinker. "I was real straight," he said. "I grew up in the McCarthy era. No one did dope, not even weed."
Then one day in 1968, one of his colleagues at the Times offered to get him high. Hate says the experience left him stoned for three days. "I really liked it," he said.
A friend who he had worked with on the copy desk had quit the paper and moved to San Francisco and was trying to get Hate to move there, too. The idea appealed to Hate; New York was getting boring. "I realized it's gonna be the same thing the rest of my life," he said. "Plus other people were getting stoned. I just had a feeling there's more to life than Type A — have a job, pay rent, be successful, all that. I had a feeling there's some other way of operating. I got that from Thailand. ... Maybe I could live like that, too, a Third World kind of thing."
Around the same time, Hate's marriage to Lee was disintegrating. They broke up in 1970, and Hate took a month-long vacation to California to visit his friend. During his last week, they went up to Albion and hung out in the redwoods with a "bunch of freaks."
He had already tried mescaline once on the East Coast. This time, he tried psilocybin. Acid was next. The day before he was supposed to catch a plane and return to New York, he took his first tab. "Whoa, that was it," Hate said. "It was life-changing. I just felt connected to everything. Everything was funny. I just felt totally one with everything."
When he returned to New York, Hate's thinking had changed radically. He no longer wanted to live a conventional life, and that meant no longer working at the Times.
He discovered that there was a clause in the paper's contract that allowed severance pay for alcoholics. Hate would have been entitled to $5,000, which he needed to pay child support, and asked a friend in personnel if the clause might extend to "dope fiends."
At the same time, Hate was struggling with the strained relationship with his ex-wife. He saw her in a grocery store a few months after they had split. She wanted nothing to do with him. "It was awkward, uncomfortable," he said. Shortly afterward, she died of leukemia, and the experience clearly affected him. "C-A-N-C-E-R," he said, spelling out the letters. "I don't even like to say the word."
The minutiae of life at the Times and the painful memories of the breakup of his marriage continued to haunt him. One morning he woke to find he could not speak. "I had an emotional breakdown," he said. "I stopped speaking. I guess I felt something was just wrong with the language."
On another level, Hate knew that, just as words held power, not speaking was equally powerful.
One weekend while stoned at a street fair, Hate slipped and fell off of a fire hydrant and hurt his back. The next day he went to work to tender his resignation — without speaking. "I was already starting to get weird," Hate recalled. "I was wearing blue jeans. ... They thought I'd flipped."
Hate said his editors didn't want to give him severance lest it open the door for other stoners. Instead, they tried to fire him. In protest, Hate sat on the sidewalk in front of the Times building for seven hours the next day, barefoot and wearing blue jeans.
Eventually, a cop asked what he was doing, and when Hate didn't respond, the officer thought he was being snotty and dragged him inside the lobby. He remembers seeing two of his reflections in the double revolving doors. "It was like a movie-type image," he said, recalling the incident as though it happened yesterday.
When word reached the newsroom that a police officer was roughing up a Times reporter, the editors rushed downstairs. After telling the cop to let him go, they met with Hate in a room next to the lobby, where he finally broke his silence. He told them, "You can arrest me or put me in Bellevue mental, but when I get out I'm coming back here."
His editors relented. It took another three years to "slow down," as Hate put it, before he decided to leave New York for good.
"His decision to leave New York City followed a period of intense, personal turmoil," said Hate's sister Prudence. "His marriage ended, he had left his job as a reporter at The New York Times, and he had been in and out of a hospital for a full year following his having been hit by a drunk driver in the East Village. His taking control of the future was a good sign, and his choosing a completely new course just had to be a huge and courageous adventure."
In 1973, Hate moved to California, and never looked back.
When he arrived, Hate stayed in San Francisco with his old friend. But he didn't feel at home in the city, so his friend suggested he check out the college town across the bay. Hate had heard of Berkeley because of the Free Speech Movement, and, though he had never been there, he knew almost immediately that it was home.
Then in his mid-thirties, Hate was working as a legal secretary and living near campus in Barrington Hall, a co-op whose tenants had a reputation for rampant drug use. He began dating an undergrad named Sarah, who was then just twenty years old. It was during their relationship that Hate's philosophy of oppositionality took root.
The relationship was rocky from the start, so Hate and Sarah came up with a system. When one would piss off the other, the offended one need only say, "I hate you" or "fuck you," but without the vehemence usually attached to those phrases. Hate felt the method was a success; nonetheless, they broke up after two years of dating. When Sarah made it clear that she no longer wanted to see him, Hate said he responded, "'Fuck you. I hate you.' And she said, 'Well, fuck you, I hate you.' The whole thing was funny."
As Hate continued to try to date other women, he used his "fuck you" approach with them as well. Not surprisingly, it didn't go over very well. "Up until then, having an N-I-C-E day in California was a religion," Hate noted. "Until then, that's all there was. I learned to say 'fuck you' in New York 'cause it's like 'hello' in New York. So I was used to that. And then I added 'I hate you' with Sarah where we got used to saying it, comfortable with it. I didn't know it was a big deal."
Jobs were hard to come by at that time and Hate often found himself in lines for unemployment or temp jobs. One day, he was hanging out on Bancroft Way, watching students and university employees rushing to campus. "Then this one woman was smiling, so I smiled at her, and she almost threw up," he said. "And I realized later, I think she just had her smile on, like her makeup, for her boss when she got to work. She worked on campus. It wasn't for me or for somebody else to smile at her — she didn't like it. So I went over to the steps at the student union and there was a street person named Sky that I knew. And I said, 'Man, people are fucked up today,' and she said, 'Yeah, don't you hate 'em?' And this light went on in my brain. And it was like, uh, yeah, I could hate everybody to some extent. So I went back out to the post there and I started saying, 'Fuck you, I hate you, have a lousy day' to everybody, and people just cracked up. They were stunned, shocked, horrified, pissed."
Pretty soon, a circle of people had gathered around Hate, some interrogating him, heckling him, or just taking in the entertainment. Hate found the whole thing amusing. "And then I got addicted to it," he said.
The next day he went back to Sproul Plaza to continue his hate tirade. He noticed that if he moved around too much, people would shy away from him because he'd seem too nuts. So after a few days, he decided to stand in the middle of the fountain at Sproul, which was then empty because of a drought, in order to put a safe distance between him and the public. The tactic worked.
For a year, Hate went to the fountain and practiced his hate speech. At times, he'd attract a crowd three deep, he said. It was during this period that he earned his nickname: Hate Man.
Though he wasn't quite aware of what he was doing, it was clear he was onto something. "I would turn to face whoever was the most upset, because the heckler can be dangerous but they're also the person who is the most interested in what I am saying, so it's also to my benefit for two reasons to pay attention to them," Hate said. "And that's when I really put it together — it's a way of caring. I can care when I'm negative and that's actually my most radical proposition here. Like if we're angry, that's a challenge in relationships — can we care? I call the thing oppositionalism. Can we care when we're opposite? ... So the 'I hate you' is a way of staying in there when we're opposite as well as 'F-U-C-K Y-O-U' and 'I'm pissed.' ... The caring light is still on even though it's negative."
In some ways, Hate's hate was a defense against all the pain he had suffered. "I tried caring about people in a positive way, only in a positive way, forgiving people and all that," he said. "And it was a disaster. Those are the people who burned me the worst in my life. So that's why I came up with negative caring."
Hate's rants particularly upset preachers, who used the opportunity to evangelize. But he always had a comeback for them. He would cite Luke 14:26-27 in King James, where Jesus states, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
To those who said his hatred was dangerous, he'd tell them that Hitler did not say he hated the Jews; he would use the third person. "I got this from Martin Buber, the German existentialist. His main book was I-Thou, and he said we only care about people in the I-Thou mode. That when we're talking about someone in the third person, it's somewhat cold, detached."
But Hate realized it wasn't enough just to tell others that he hated them; he needed others to tell him the same. "I don't trust you unless you say, 'I hate you.' You don't have to mean it. As long as you're willing to say it."
While Hate's ideology had manifested verbally, it had not yet done so physically. It was the late-Seventies, and by then Hate had been in Berkeley for several years and made friends with quite a few street people. He was living in a studio near Telegraph Avenue, letting as many as ten or twelve people stay with him a night. He charged them about $1 a day, depending on how many people there were, but not everyone wanted to pay. So Hate devised a system where they would have to "push" him in order to stay without paying. It involved lining up shoulder to shoulder and pushing their weight against one another. "It's not domination. It's not strength," Hate said. "It's some kind of chi thing. It's a way to feel it, who wants it more." Eventually, he said, people would cough up a few cents here, a few cents there, and maybe a few dollars when they'd get a paycheck.
Hate and a group of others also started drumming on buckets, which became a fixture — and a headache — in Sproul Plaza for years.
To match his newfound perspective, Hate's appearance altered appropriately. He began wearing different-colored shoes. "That was partly an attention-getting device when I came out of the fountain because I couldn't start a conversation with someone I didn't know," said Hate. "Because I want to get noticed, I hate to be ignored. And then people notice me and say, 'Why do you wear two different shoes?'" He began wearing dresses and skirts for similar reasons. "I'm a Taoist. I'm an atheist. A Taoist believes in the duality. So that's also a signal that I'm unorthodox in some basic ways, yin and yang."
Meanwhile, Hate began dating an artist named Jade (née Alison Furth), who had just divorced her husband and had a young son named Kasha. In 1982, Hate and Furth had a daughter named ZiZi — thus beginning the first family application of oppositionality.
"I did his whole philosophy," Furth said. "It was started before, sure, but it was like being with a celebrity. I had to deal with it. I took care of the kids, but it was difficult because he would push with anybody. There'd be a knock at 2 a.m. and it would be someone asking to push-pull to come in. And we had small children."
Hate was far from a conventional father — more what Furth calls "Mister Mommy." Even his parenting style reflected oppositionality. "The kids would zoom by, and they'd see cookies or something, and so Kasha would stop and push hard," Furth recalled. "Mark's smoking a cigarette, and then, finally, Kasha would see something else and zoom away, or he would really dig in and want that cookie. They just would not demand things. They knew they could get whatever they wanted, if they wanted it bad enough."
But oppositionality wasn't an easy thing to incorporate into his relationships. "He never said he loved me," Furth said. "He never said anything positive, because he feels like it dissipates it. It only lasts until something bad happens and hate comes out. But I wanted him to say, 'I love you.'"
In the beginning of their relationship, Hate said they engaged in a two-hour push because she wanted him to say, "I love you." He won. "I don't say 'I love you' to anyone," he said.
After almost five years together, Furth broke up with Hate. By then, Hate was well acquainted with street life from the various homeless people he hung out with. So in 1986, he decided to try outdoor living himself.
It turned out to be the life he'd always wanted.
Street life not only means freedom for Hate, it's also free. He doesn't have to work — just "hustle here, hustle there," mostly to get money for cigarettes. He no longer does drugs because he says he doesn't like the low that follows the high and he'd rather be level all the time. He gets coffee from the free meals served in the park but does not eat the food. Instead, when he gets hungry, he roots through trashcans. When he needs money, he scrounges for bottles and cans to recycle, or for BART cards with change on them so that he can then compile and sell them. He's mindful of not relying on others for his needs, saying he is "bored" with government services and does not claim Social Security.
"I'm addicted to it," Hate said of the homeless life. "It's fresh air. It's exciting. It's very Zen. There are problems with it but it's very immediate — whether it's weather or a ticket or a psycho. Whereas rent, those are longer-term problems." For a while, he slept in a friend's garage but found that it would make other homeless people jealous. He finds it easier to sleep on the street, where everyone is equal.
In essence, Hate is living what amounts to his retirement, and in a manner not unlike what he saw in Thailand back in the Sixties. Except for a recent postrate problem that landed him in the hospital and the fact that he is missing most of his teeth, he appears healthy and hearty, especially for man in his seventies. He doesn't worry about getting his needs met. "I always had this dream when I was a kid that I was by this river and anything I ever needed would float down the river," he said. "And the trash is like that."
Street life is also where his pushing coalesced into a regular way of resolving conflict. He pushes as many as thirty times a day, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour, for everything and anything he has that someone wants. Usually, people want his cigarettes. He carries both "slims" — Virginia Slims, his favorite — and "rollies" (loose tobacco).
Once, he said, he pushed with a guy for ten hours, stopping only for cigarette breaks. The prize? Three dollars. Hate won.
But that's not typical. Hate says he loses pushes most of the time. "Don't get me wrong, some people take advantage of it," he said. "This one guy — 300 pounds — for years, he took hundreds of cigarettes from me until I finally figured out the weakness in his push. It was all in his footing, so I adjusted mine."
But losing doesn't seem to bother Hate. He seems more concerned with getting people to push than with keeping his stuff — unless it's a slim, of course. Then, a push might last fifteen minutes, he warns, and it'll be hard.
On the surface, Hate's ideology might seem counterintuitive, gimmicky, or just plain weird. But it turns out that it's not just some hare-brained idea, or even just a creative bartering system for people without money. It's actually helped bring people together, giving them a sense of direction and community.
At least it's done so for a small group of kindred spirits over the years. Currently, there are six "oppies," as Hate refers to them: Jaguar, Mambo, Tantrum, Castaway, Krash, and Smudge. (Like Hate, they took on a variety of nicknames for themselves.)
Hate is quick to point out that they are not disciples or admirers, merely adherents of oppositionality. Meaning they've also adopted "I hate you" as a greeting, and pushing as a way of bartering things.
"Hate's got a good thing here," said Jaguar, a painter and Hate Camper, who left his former life to live outdoors as well. "Just being oppositional and straight in all you do."
Krash was one of the first oppies. He first met Hate in Sproul Plaza in 1991 when he was a graduate student at Berkeley. He said he was "overwhelmed" by Hate, having been on a "major philosophical quest" since he was sixteen. Eventually, Krash dropped out of school, adopted Hate's oppositionality, and became homeless. "For me it was very beneficial because I can pull myself away from people and be abstract and float above things, and then feel like shit," Krash said on a recent evening in downtown Berkeley. "So this is a way where I felt like I'm here, I'm with you, and everybody else, I'm not closed down. I got a lot out of it doing that. It was transformational for a person like me."
"It's like the WikiLeaks of relationships," said Krash's fellow oppie and longtime friend, Mambo.
On a larger scale, Krash says Hate's band of followers help keep the peace around People's Park. "We're actually tilling this ship, whatever the People's Park ship that's been caught in these waves of chaos," he said. "And I think around where we are, we're able to handle most of the crazy shit that flows into the park. We're able to ride it, move away from it, come back. But deal with it in a way that doesn't make it more explosive, or neutralize it."
Though Krash cringes at the thought of being considered a "follower" of anyone, he says Hate does act as an important focal point. "At some level, Hate is really another form of one of these Hasidic tzadiks from the 17th century, where you'd have the guy who was the core of the group and then he'd have his devoted people and the whole community," said Krash, who attended rabbinical school in New York before attending UC Berkeley. "People are drawn to him because they want a cigarette, but it's more than just a cigarette that they're going for, there's a sense of a center. He's really important as a center. ... And it's a center of friendship. Where in this oppositional way, a lot of people become open and intimate and tell their stories. And in this atmosphere of clear opposition, the trust opens up. And it's something."
But while oppositionality may have inspired others, it didn't exactly soothe Hate's relationship with his daughters. He says he's at "arms-length" with his older daughter, who he calls "Equation" and who lives in Ohio with her husband and daughter, and ZiZi, who still lives in Berkeley. "That's one thing I have not solved," Hate lamented. "The kids feel abandoned, like I don't care about them." When they do get together, he said, "it feels fake. There's an emotional rift."
Nonetheless, Hate continues to live steadfastly by his ideology and shows no signs of giving it up. He hopes to spread his ideas and way of life, and can't understand how others operate without it. But he realizes it's an uphill battle.
"This is so heavy," he said. "A lot of people don't want to hear it, they don't want to be negative or acknowledge negatives, which I think is the main problem in the world, in relationships, that we're not being straight with each other."
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